“These tools are not inherently evil.” These are the words spoken by Chip Donohue who was awesome enough to agree to present with us during our conversation starter at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. What tools is he talking about, you ask? Those would be the use of tablets and apps in the library.
One of the big debates going on in libraryland right now is whether or not tablets and other technologies should be used in the library. We here at Little eLit believe that it’s the duty of librarians to embrace this new technology and that it’s up to us to help parents learn how to properly utilize it as well. A few of the loudest complaints that have been going around are that screen time for youngsters can hurt them developmentally and that apps don’t offer anything different or better than books. Thankfully Chip was with us at our conversation starter to offer some wonderful insight and advice. He touched on numerous subjects during his part of the presentation and brought up some very interesting points, the main theme being that we need to embrace this technology, and that it’s our duty to develop these skills ourselves and teach them to the public.
Chip stated that one of the issues shouldn’t be “all tech” vs. “no tech.” We should be incorporating them both together, and that if a child reads an ebook it doesn’t mean that s/he is going to stop wanting to read an actual book. In fact, kids don’t delineate the physical and the virtual. It was mentioned during our conversation starter that some people have noticed that their child becomes even more interested in the book version of a story after reading it on a tablet. We know that parents are already using this technology at home with their children, and it’s up to us, like Chip said, to provide information for them on how to properly use these new tools.
Now I’d like to ask a question. How many of you have NEVER had a patron come to you or another library worker and ask how to use some sort of technology? I’d be surprised if anyone has ever truly had this happen. We are NOT just book slingers. We have a duty to help our patrons navigate the wide world of technology, and what better way to make sure we’re knowledgeable and comfortable with answering their questions than using and utilizing the technology ourselves? Patrons come to us expecting us to be able to help them, and how can we if we refuse to use or accept the technology with which they need our help? Another argument that Chip made was that we need to work on our own digital literacy before we work with others, that we need to be able to offer sound information for inquiring patrons and that there are no skill deficits for librarians to be able to do this. To select, use, integrate, and evaluate are all skills that we already use, and now it’s just a willingness to do it with technology.
This brings me to the next point that Chip made during our conversation starter. The app market is enormous and can feel incredibly daunting for patrons. With so many apps coming out every day, how can a parent make educated decisions on which apps are best for them? Once again, this is where we should come in. We already have the ability to assess and evaluate, so why shouldn’t we use these skills to help make the app marketplace more manageable and navigable for our patrons? And this, folks, is the main reason we had our A to Zoo for apps conversation starter. We need to take it upon ourselves to become involved with reviewing these apps and making sure that there is a credible area for us to navigate this massive marketplace.
Chip ended his portion of the discussion by reminding us that these devices are an invitation for joint engagement between caregivers and children, that when they choose to come to the library it is on purpose, and what better reason do we need to provide this service of bests for them? Fred Rogers believed technology might be good, could be great—but only when used for social and emotional development. We’re the experts here, not the parents, and it is up to us to help guide them on the proper use of this new technology. Like Fred and Chip said, we need to “Think of the child first.”Trista Kunkel Youth Services Librarian Birchard Public Library
A special thanks to everyone who came to our A to Zoo for Apps Conversation Starter at ALA in Chicago last weekend! Here’s the video of what transpired for those of you who were unable to make it. We have some next steps in the works with the Erikson Institute and ALSC (and eventually, we hope, the Fred Rogers Center), but nothing I can report on officially yet. Stay tuned, folks. If Little eLit has anything to do with it, this is going to be an unprecedented collaboration, the likes of which has not yet been seen in libraryland. More to come!